Over the years, I have worked out at various fitness centers.  The very first one I joined was somewhere in the early 80’s.  It was a small family owned Nautilus set up with very limited free weights.  No classes.  Only a couple of bikes and treadmills – maybe 6 total.   The concept was simple:  Follow the machines in order and do between 8-12 reps per exercise.  Once you hit 12 reps, up the weight by 5% below 100 pounds and 10% once you were at 100 pounds.  Do one set of each and move onto the next machine.  It worked for me.  I lost a lot of weight on WW and gained a substantial amount of muscle.  It’s best feature – it was down the block from my office and I could workout lunch time with a lot of other local business people.

I had some periods of laxing off, gaining weight and starting all over again.  I would go back to this place even as it changed ownership and location several times over the years.

Eventually this club became a part of a larger entity, whose main center was on the other side of the county.  The main place was too far away for me to use.  When the local place closed, my workouts stopped.  The never-ending cycle of weight gain and muscle loss started again.

Since March 12, 2007, I have been working out at a local New York Sports Club.  There are actually 3 NYSC facilities in my area.  Amazing.  There is one that is in a local Mall and bluntly is too crowded for my comfort.  The machines and equipment are too close together.  You can not avoid being covered in someone else’s sweat.   The floor exercise area is miniscule unless there is no class in session.  It’s big draw is a children’s area and program – hey – it’s a Mall – why not.  It had a climbing wall – until someone died. 

The newest one is modern and fancy.  It has a lot of cardio equipment and classes but a paucity of free weights.  Locker/shower area – nice.  It’s big draw is its swimming pool.  Although it is close to both my home and office, the fact that they will not honor my cheaper senior membership AND have no intention of expanding the free weight area – nixes that one.

I understand that most of the newer NYSC facilities are following a similar game plan – limited free weights.

The one I use had been a Gold’s Gym.  There is a decent array of cardio equipment but a much larger selection of resistance machines  and 3 separate cable stations.  They have a pretty decent size room for classes and two floor areas for body weight and related workouts and stretching.  Best of all, they have a damn good free weight area and a duplication of equipment.  Two Squat Racks – plus three Smith -type- Racks – could anything be better.  When I go – there is rarely any waiting for a piece of equipment.  The draw back – the locker/shower room – ugly – but usable.

I joined Retro Fitness when my wife came home from the Rehabilitation facility.  She belongs there and it is closer to the house.  It is a franchise operation and its main draw is the cardio equipment including a cardio theater.  There is a decent array of resistance machines.  A separate room for floor exercises and a limited but relatively complete free weight area.  Unfortunately there is limited duplication of equipment.  The Locker/Shower room is acceptable but no sauna or steam room.  No classes.  It has a Shake Bar and sells some odds and ends. 

The cost is relatively inexpensive.  Between maintaining my senior membership at NYSC and joining this one – I am paying what most people pay for one place.

Interestingly – there are a number of people who have switched to Retro Fitness from NYSC.  Knowing the free weight workouts they did originally compared to what they are doing now – I was surprised.  Shouldn’t be – in today’s economy many people switch to the least expensive place.

Most importantly it is working well for my wife.  She is able to use the machines with my assistance and there is enough variety to support the physical therapy she is receiving.  The side room for floor exercises works well for throwing and bouncing a small swiss ball back and forth. 

But for me.  I’ve had to re-design my workouts.  Probably the one piece of equipment that is missing:  A Chin-up Bar.  They have ones that are on cable bridges with multiple strangely fixed hand holds in the center of the bridge –  for neutral and pull-ups but not shoulder width chin-ups.  The ridiculous part of it – the height of these is so high that almost everyone needs to use a step – so naturally – no one does – since the step is kept in the separate floor exercise room.  The other dual set ups with pull-up capability are so tight that I either hit my knees or hips when trying to use them.  Not happy.

Retro Fitness is set up as a turn-key operation with a number of ‘money makers’ built into the agenda.   Any dumbbell can open the front door – turn on the equipment and be “in-charge.”  I have never seen a real manager or owner on the premises – just baby sitters who make sure that everyone checks in.

NYSC has a higher profile of management available – not much higher – but at least the appearance of control.

Both have Personal Trainers – I believe that the ones at NYSC are better certified – at least marginally.

In our same area are a myriad of smaller fitness centers each with a slightly different focus.  There are also at least two Planet Fitness facilities and a new LA Fitness is scheduled to open.

Why with all of these Fitness Facilities are the general population of this area super over weight and out of shape?  I’ve got no answer.